Tuesday, December 22, 2009

spinach and cheese strata

spinach and cheese strata

I have spent the last few months unearthing recipes I’ve had bookmarked for an eternity. A whole lot of them, mostly things I have spared you, did not exactly age like fine wine, as they say; fillings ran, vegetables never caramelized, spiced mixed nuts were grimy and cookies were painfully sweet. The rest of them, however, caused me to become consumed with regret when I think of all of the times we could have already consumed mindblowing butterscotch, caviar-esque creamed mushrooms and speedy, rich biscuits but did not know of them yet. This is one of those times.

egging up the casserole

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m all about hosting brunch, but only if I can make everything in advance. When it comes to biscuits, bacon, baked French toast and fruit salads, pulling it off is obvious. But I always get lost on the eggs, and for a whole lot of people, it’s not breakfast if it doesn’t involve eggs. This strata — really, a savory bread pudding — is the missing piece because not only can you make it the night before, you are supposed to.

spinach and cheese strata

You can even, as we did this weekend, run out to pick up eggs and milk at the store, your bacon from the Polish meat market, coffee that someone else made for you, and assemble it while waiting impatiently for the snowstorm to start.

Then, once it really starts to come down, wrap it in plastic and chill it in the fridge while you go investigate the wonderland.

letitsnowletitsnow

And the next morning, when everything outside your kitchen window is blanketed white, wet and icy, bake it up, stay inside and watch Home Alone while eating the most effortlessly decadent eggs yet.

brekky

One year ago: Potato Pancakes and Braised Beef Short Ribs
Two years ago: A Slice-and-Bake Cookie Palette
Three years ago: Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti and Hazelnut Truffles

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Gourmet (sniffle), February 2003

Serves 6 to 8

1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


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